Carbon Literacy is a learning methodology that allows people to engage with the huge, complex and frightening reality of climate change and break the challenge down into manageable personal and organisational responses. Formulated in Manchester, the concept has now spread to over ten countries.
Cynnal Cymru is the official partner of the Carbon Literacy Project in Wales. Still managed in Manchester by Cooler Projects and overseen by the Carbon Literacy Trust, the concept is defined as;
“An awareness of the carbon dioxide costs and impacts of everyday activities, and the ability and motivation to reduce emissions, on an individual, community and organisational basis.”
On the 17th March Cardiff Council announced that it had become the first Welsh local authority to achieve Carbon Literate Organisation status in Wales, and in fact the first council in the whole of the UK. They are also the first organisation from any sector in Wales to meet the standard at a bronze level. Carbon Literate Organisation status goes from bronze to platinum.
Our Carbon Literacy trainer, Rhodri Thomas, shares more about the success of Carbon Literacy as well as his goal to reach six platinum level organisations in Wales and many many more at bronze to gold level over the next four years.
Rhodri was also the first resident Welsh certified Carbon Literacy trainer in Wales and has trained over 400 people and has seen the concept take hold in Wales.
Over to Rhodri…
Why has Carbon Literacy proved to be such a success?
Before answering that question, first let’s review what has been achieved:
- After initially training the Sustainable Development forum of Museum Wales, we supported initial efforts by the whole museum sector to develop bespoke Carbon Literacy training.
- We co-founded a consortium of twenty seven housing associations and oversaw the training of around 140 staff including a Train The Trainer programme as well as the development of a dedicated Carbon Literacy course for the social housing sector. Our partners in the consortium are launching a cascade of peer to peer training this spring using their own course.
- We have just completed a project funded by National Resources Wales to train around 200 leaders and influencers from the organisations that make up the five Gwent Public Service Boards. On this we worked with Manchester Metropolitan University and Great Places Housing group.
- We recently trained the whole cabinet and executive management team of Newport City Council.
- We developed an introduction to climate change e-learning course for Denbighshire County Council that will accompany their Carbon Literacy training.
- We designed a Carbon Literacy for Engineers course in collaboration with the Flexis programme.
- We have trained Cardiff Council colleagues and cabinet members allowing them to apply for the Bronze Carbon Literacy Organisation accreditation.
So why the interest?
Some time ago, I was challenged with, “why should working class people in the valleys be burdened with this knowledge – they are not the ones causing all the problems.”
As I stumbled for a reply, someone else said, “Why shouldn’t they understand climate change and their part in it?”
That for me sums it up. Climate change – the effects and impacts of global warming – will spare no one. And yes, everyone is responsible although of course some people make a greater contribution to greenhouse gas levels than others. But through Carbon Literacy, this big scary problem becomes the stuff of everyday life.
The injustices of it are exposed but so are the solutions and the co-benefits of taking action, and above all, the awareness of personal agency is developed – everyone can do something to reduce emissions and everyone can do something to protect themselves, their families and their communities from the predicted and current impacts of this problem.
Managers, elected leaders, community workers, volunteers, specialists, skilled and unskilled workers and people looking for work have all been helped by the Carbon Literacy method to unpack the problem and stare the monster in the face.
We now have seven local authorities in Wales who have discovered the benefit of Carbon Literacy within the context of their declaration of a climate emergency and their formulation of complex plans to reduce their own and their county’s emissions.
Decarbonisation and climate change adaptation are two big and complicated challenges. They simply cannot be left for a small group of specialists to solve. When we all work together as a team, sharing our knowledge and insights, taking personal as well as collective responsibility, then we can hope to reach more effective solutions faster.
This is what we hope to see now from Cardiff, Newport, Torfaen, Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent, Caerffili and Denbighshire – all the local authorities that have so far embraced Carbon Literacy – the use of their Carbon Literacy to develop team work, horizontal and vertical collaboration, everyone speaking the same language and striving towards the same goals.
Climate change caused by global heating will define every aspect of life in the twenty first century. Everyone should understand it and be supported to develop a response. It’s not certain that our social and economic systems will adapt, decarbonise and survive what is already starting to happen but we give ourselves a greater chance if we face the problem and deconstruct it. As far as climate change is concerned, ignorance will be a very short lived and morally questionable bliss.
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